We are one game away from the frustrating hiatus clubs take from
football. International football always looks silly mid-season, especially when
you have to see Santi Cazorla fly all around the world so that he can play 15-odd
minutes for Spain, the world champions, in a pointless friendly.
Hopefully, the diminutive Spaniard stays back to
continue his rehab and be ready for our season defining two month period where
we take on Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. Sorry Anfield faithful,
I don’t rank your team amongst the elite!
Coming to more pressing issues though, we take on a
West Bromwich Albion side that defeated a flat Man Utd side at Old Trafford and
finished 8th last season on Sunday. Certainly no pushovers.
Hopefully we continue our stunning away form and the seniors might even draw
confidence from how our second string squad managed to contain a Baggies line
up containing over seven regular starters.
I caught up with the crew of Baggies Blog ahead of this weekend’s clash and Joseph and Brad
both praised Arsenal’s season so far and believe the Gunners deserve to be top
of the table. Both were also unanimous in giving a big thumbs up to Steve
Clarke and his brilliant Baggies after what was an impressive win against
West Brom are now one of the league’s best mid table clubs. How big an
influence has Steve Clarke been in that rise?
Brad: Clarke inherited a
squad on the up from Roy Hodgson, but has stamped his own mark on the side. He
seems to have the respect of the players and added some quality to the side.
His tactical knowledge on the game is superb and has made us hard to beat.
Joseph: We’d certainly like to think we’re established
now as we enter our fourth season in the top flight. Clarke took over from Roy
Hodgson, who’d done a fantastic job steadying the ship. He’s bought well, the
players have huge respect for him and we look forward to another successful
season in the Premier League.
The win at Old Trafford must have been fantastic. Are you happy in
general about the start the Baggies have had to the season?
Brad: It was a fantastic
win against a strong United side. The first few games were very disappointing,
but the squad have seemed to turn a corner picking up some vital points. The
signings have started to gel and the club can only go from strength to
Joseph: They were the only Premier League team we’d
never beaten, so that was a great test to overcome. The start to the season was
quite slow until we made a number of significant signings on deadline day.
Since our last minute equaliser at Fulham a few weeks ago, we’ve won two games
back to back. Onwards and upwards!
Which player has impressed fans the most so far?
Brad: There are a few
who have impressed, but Morgan Amalfitano joined on loan from Marseille and has
looked superb. He has already scored two goals, but his all-round play is
exceptional. He works very hard off the ball, supporting Billy Jones down the
right hand side. We have the chance to sign the player for 1.7 million during
his loan deal, and there is already talk of the board paying that after only
two games, that is the impact he has had.
Joseph: Mulumbu has excelled once again; he’s a real
club asset. But I’ll have to go with Morgan Amalfitano, though. There are
already calls for his loan move from Marseille to be made permanent with him
having scored two and assisted two in his first three matches.
Any player who you think has failed to live up to expectations?
Brad: During the first
few games, especially against Southampton, the whole of the team failed to live
up to expectations. But if I had to single out one player it would have to be
Nicolas Anelka. The off the field problems haven’t helped but he hasn’t really
added much to the side. I’m sure he will soon gel better with the players and I
am backing him to find some of his best form.
Joseph: Our left back position is a concern for me,
Ridgewell and Popov are both susceptible to pace. Yacob started the season
slowly, as has Anelka, but in the last couple of games their performances have
picked up. Markus Rosenberg is still waiting for his first goal, and the sooner
he gets that, the better!
Which West Brom legend would you love to have back in this squad?
Brad: I would have to
pick Bob Taylor. He had the ability to put the ball in the back of the net with
some exceptional finishing, scoring the goal to put us in the Premier League
for the first time. I am sure he would add to his 100 plus goals with some of
the quality behind him if he was in the current squad.
Joseph: Wow! Being a younger supporter means I can’t
justifiably choose the likes of Regis, Brown or Astle! In recent seasons,
there’ve been players I’ve been sad to see leave, Robert Koren, Kevin Phillips
etc. The term ‘legend’ used very loosely there!
Your take on Arsenal as a club.
Brad: I like the way
Arsenal as a club is ran. They have kept faith in Arsene Wegner, despite the
bad patch he went through. I enjoy the way they play on the pitch, keeping the
ball and attacking with pace. It has been a pleasure to watch the Gunners whenever
they’ve been to the Hawthorns.
Joseph: I’ve always enjoyed watching Arsenal under
Wenger, especially at Highbury. It’s understandable why they’re the neutrals’
favourite top side- the beautiful football they play and Wenger’s reluctance to
simply ‘buy’ a trophy!
Do you think Arsenal deserve to be top of the league?
Brad: Arsenal do deserve
to be top of the league because they have been the best side this season. They
have added some real quality and that has shown on the pitch.
Joseph: Absolutely. Aaron Ramsey has been on fire,
Giroud seems to have found his feet, and the team really seems to be clicking.
I watched the first half against Napoli and they were unstoppable. I personally
hope they stay there for the remainder of the season!
North London has seen some impressive players arrive. Your take on the
different paths Arsenal and Tottenham have taken to strengthen.
Brad: In my opinion,
Arsenal have done the better pieces of business during the summer. They already
had serious quality in the squad but have gone and added a world class player.
Tottenham have signed some good players as well, but it will take a lot longer
for them to gel and find their best formation going forward. This has been
proven in the start, as Arsenal are top of the league.
Joseph: It was necessary for Tottenham to strengthen
the depth of their squad if they’re to challenge for the title. Christian
Eriksen early on looks a real bargain, while the return of Sandro and Kaboul
Oddly, I thought Arsenal should’ve taken the
same route, but Wenger was brave, spent £42.5m on one player, and early on
seems to be reaping the rewards. Just hope their squad lasts the season;
they’ll need to add again in January I feel, just to keep pace!
One Arsenal player you’d want at West Brom.
Brad: I would love Mesut
Ozil at West Brom. He is a world class player, who has the ability to score a
goal but moreover creates more assist than anyone else on the planet. The West
Brom strikers and wide players would benefit hugely from his passing range and
would almost certainly see Albion challenging for Europe!
Joseph: Santi Cazorla!
Predictions for the season.
Brad: I think Arsenal
will come a lot closer to the top this season, but will not win it. I think a
Champions League spot is almost guaranteed, and will probably finish third.
Joseph: I think Albion fans would generally take
mid-table, after last season’s success. It was a shame not to progress further
in the league cup, so hopefully the FA cup is more promising.
Thoughts on Sunday’s game and predicted score.
Brad: After last weekend’s
performance, and knowing what we can do, I am going to back us at home. I think
we will win 2-1, with Sessegnon and Anelka scoring against his former club.
Joseph: I can’t see us winning, but it’ll be close. A
Thanks for reading,